There was a pronounced quantitative difference between the helper activities of B6C3F1 splenic T cells sensitized with unmodified vs modified antigens of SRBC. Modified SRBC induced the greater helper activity which was measured by the magnitude of an anti-TNP response (IgM and IgG) elicited in vivo by virgin B lymphocytes. Antigen modification was produced by conjugating SRBC with the hapten or simply by incubating SRBC in cacodylate buffer. There were restrictions with respect to both erythrocyte species and mouse strains for this differential priming to occur.
The relatively poor performance of SRBC-primed T lymphocytes was apparently not due to suppressor T cells, but rather to activation of only one of two identified T cell subpopulations required for full helper activity. Unmodified SRBC activated a subpopulation of “helper” cells characterized as sensitive to elimination by ATS and long-lived after ATx, but failed to activate in B6C3F1 mice a second subpopulation of “amplifier” cells resistant to elimination by ATS and short-lived after ATx. In contrast, modified SRBC activated both helper and amplifier cells. Under appropriate conditions these subsets of T cells were strongly synergistic in promoting antihapten antibody formation especially of the IgG class. The involvement of two distinct types of T lymphocytes in the positive regulation of antibody responses raises interesting and novel questions concerning the sequence of events in the triggering of B cells and the subsequent development of the response.